One would assume that ten years post-divorce every wound would be healed. Each hurt feeling would be long-tended and recovered. All those damages wrought by the jagged shards of shattered trust, imploding self esteem and broken vows...nothing but scars and memories now.
One would assume that, yes. And one would be kind of-sort of right. At least in my case.
As alike as our divorces and the series of unfortunate events that led up to them may be, we are still all unique. That goes for how we recover from our divorces, as well. Some of us are truly able to shed that skin like a snake, leave the husk behind and get on with gettin on. Some of us simply patched up as best we could, enough to blend in, enough to get through the days without sticking out too much. Regardless of our rate of healing, I think we all do it eventually but just like any other trauma, it does leave a mark. Maybe that mark is the self-doubt you feel when you look in the mirror. Maybe it's the "what if" game you play every once in a while.
For me, the mark is my gut. No, not the front-butt that has hung out on my belly since all those c-sections...like the divorce, I've come to terms with that too. The gut thing for me is that "pang". Are you familiar with it? It's the invisible fist that gets you right in the stomach, when faced with reminders of your past. At first, those fists are huge and powerful. The pang can take your breath away then, can bring tears to your eyes and cause you to recoil in physical pain.
After a while, the pang mellows. Oh, it's still there but over the days and months and years it becomes less fisty- more like a poke than a punch.
These are the divorce healing pangs, my friends. And they never end. They just get quieter, harder to feel and see. But I think it's important that we still acknowledge them, and give ourselves credit where it's due.
My latest milestone? It was something so silly I'm almost embarrassed to share it with you. I'm going to, of course, but still...it's with a little hesitation.
So, my ex mother in law. I LOVE HER. This isn't a bash against her, not one bit. I miss her and other family members so much. Way more than I ever missed her stepson. Yes, she's his step mom. His "real" mom, meh. She was great while we were married, afterwards, not so much. It's become a running joke in our house that she's still trying to kill me by sending chocolate chip cookies loaded with walnuts home with the kids at Christmastime every year.
The other mom, though? To quote Tupac, "nothin but love". To this day she continues to keep in touch, along with some sisters-in-law. They have been an integral part of my healing and I am forever grateful to them. When you've been rejected, wholly and completely by someone, it can be a lifesaver to know you're still worth enough to keep the lines of communication open.
Every year, right before Christmas, they have a big brunch at their country club. A holiday/December birthday celebration. I used to attend back in the olden days, and my kids continue to do so. This year, apparently, there was a photographer there to capture the fun. My mother in law sent me a link to the pics, because that's what kind people do. "Hey, your babies are in these pictures...thought you'd like to see them!" is what I imagine she was thinking.
I clicked on the link. And there she was. The woman who decided, a decade or so ago, that she wanted to get herself a man and set her sights on the one I happened to be married to at the time. There she was, smiling and holding her children. They were the first photos in the lineup, you guys. It's not as if I searched for them. Click and BOOM.
Here's the good news, though. It wasn't the gut punch. It wasn't even much of a pang, honestly. I did look because I'm human. Wouldn't you?? I looked at the kids and felt relief that they don't look anything like mine. I looked at her and for a flicker of a second thought "well she looks pretty pleased with herself".
And then I kept on clickin'. Found pics of my brood and looked at them, thought how cute they were and how proud I am of them and then glanced at a few more and then closed the link. Not a slamming, close, either...just a run of the mill "click".
It gets better: I didn't think much about it, not really at all until a friend and I were discussing exes last night. I wanted to show her one of the pics but decided against it because holy Doritos, I might actually be a grown up. Well...we may want to hold onto that proclamation for a sec because I did also consider, for more than a few seconds, meme-ing the crap out of one of the pictures. "INSPIRATION TO SIDE CHICKS EVERYWHERE". Or, "I USED TO BE THE OTHER WOMAN, NOW I WORRY ABOUT HER" (don't worry, I didn't) (oh but we could have some fun with this one...😂)
If this had happened ten years ago, it would have immobilized me. It would have pushed me down a dark and cobwebby rabbit hole of anxiety and self-loathing and grief. I realize by writing about this, how proud I am of myself for not losing my shit after seeing a picture of my ex-husband's wife, that I'm inviting some of the "get over it already!" and "cripes, loser, it's been a decade!" comments. That's okay.
Because I know there are others out there who go through this. Whether it's been a month, a year or twenty years since your world was shaken down to its molten core, there are always going to be these reminders, these tests, if you will.
Pangs. Pangs and gut punches and pokes, oh my. They may hurt, but don't worry, my dears. They aren't fatal.